A middle child in a single-parent family of seven children, Loretta Claiborne was born partially blind and mildly retarded. She was unable to walk or talk until after she turned four years old, but has managed to become a world-class runner and a public speaker.

Her sports career all started when her social worker, Janet McFarland, introduced her to the Special Olympics. Since then, she has run 25 marathons, she carried the torch for the International Special Olympics, in addition to winning numerous medals and also holds the 5000-meter record from women in her age group (17 minutes). Her inspirational story has been publicized in many ways, including being the subject of a television movie, entitled The Loretta Claiborne Story, and winning the ESPN Espy Arthur Ashe Award for Courage.

She communicates in four languages, including sign language and Russian, and holds honorary doctorate degrees from Quinnipiac College and Villanova University.

She now gives speeches, especially focusing on the treatment of people with disabilities and has even been invited to the White House.